Toys engage children in a way that sparks their imaginations and gets them thinking about the world around them. If your resident equine enthusiast seems a bit bored with her collection, here are 6 fun activities your child can play with horse toys – and more. They may need a little guidance from you to get started, but that’s half the fun!
Hobby Horsing Around
A hobby horse (also called a stick horse) is a horse toy that inspired an organized sport in Finland. Young girls prance around astride sticks with plush heads attached to the end. Some have intricate bridles and flowing manes, but you can also just make one yourself out of a broom and some craft supplies.
Here are some fun activities you can do with your store-brought or homemade stick-horse, but you’re only limited by your imagination!
Jumping obstacles in the backyard
Gymkhana games, such as an egg-and-spoon race or pole bending
Practice Horse Care
Horse toys aren’t just fun – they’re educational, too! Taking care of a real horse is hard work. Luckily, a toy horse doesn’t require nearly as much maintenance (but it’s sure fun to pretend).
If you’re not familiar with basic horse care, take a look in your local library for some books dedicated to horse husbandry for more detailed information. In the meantime, you can role-play some common horse tasks: feeding, watering, grooming, cleaning, a visit from the vet, and of course, riding!
Host a Pretend Equestrian Competition
Even if you’ve never ridden a horse in real life, you can help your child run a barrel racing pattern, ride a dressage test, or complete a showjumping course – all using your horse toys and your imagination!
Barrel racers run a timed cloverleaf pattern around three barrels. Set up three small toy “barrels” (you can use blocks, toy barrels, or make your own!), and time each horse’s “run.” The horse with the fastest time wins.
Dressage is “the art of training.” Horses ride in a specific pattern and must perform certain movements at various intervals along the way. Judges give a score to each horse and rider team based on how well and willingly the horse performs each movement. A pretend toy horse dressage test doesn’t need to be complicated – just have each horse and rider make a pattern in a designated “arena” at various speeds. Make it as fancy or complicated as you want to! Give the contestants a “score” out of 10 for their performances, and declare a winner.
Showjumpers complete a timed course that includes various obstacles. Toy horse jumps can be anything – blocks, bits of colored paper, toy cars, etc. Or, you can DIY your own jumps for an elaborate show jumping course. Time each contestant’s round and declare a show jumping champion!
Recreate Barn Life
While you don’t have to purchase a large fancy barn for your child to enjoy their toy horse collection, having a permanent structure can add to their experience. Toy stables can have all the bells and whistles of a real stable, including handy working doors and windows.
If you haven’t yet committed to a solid toy stable, there are other options. Encourage your child to design a new stable each day with blocks, large lego bricks, or other construction toys you may have handy. These toys promote creativity and teach valuable math skills at the same time!
If you have the time and the inclination, you can build an entire equestrian facility complete with a dollhouse, stables, riding arenas, and paddocks for hours of pretend play.
DIY Some horse toy accessories!
Once you’ve secured accommodations for your equine toy friends, they’re going to need some accessories too. There are plenty of accessory options available to choose from, but you may be more inclined to make your own. Here are some things you can make for your toy horses at little to no cost.
Feed and muck buckets. Try using small yogurt cups, fruit cups, or takeaway sauce containers. Here’s a tutorial for a DIY muck bucket and hay net using recycled Jell-O cups and embroidery floss.
Make your own stable. If you’re handy, you can make your own stable out of wood pieces. If you’re looking for something a little less permanent but just as awesome, check out this awesome tutorial for making your own stable out of cardboard boxes.
Lead ropes, halters, and bridles. You can make these out of almost anything – yarn, baling twine, embroidery floss, unscented dental floss. When I was a child, all my horses had halters made of fluffy yarn. For something more substantial (and pretty), check out this tutorial for making twisted lead ropes.
Blanket, sheets, rugs, oh my! Have any scrap fabric handy? Cut them into rectangles for some quick blankets! Secure with yarn, or make yourself a fancy version with some felt and hot glue.
Jumps and barrels. Anything can be a jump if you use your imagination. Some handy supplies for making your own jumps include popsicle sticks, paper towel rolls, and cardboard straws. Western riding enthusiasts can also fashion some barrels out of those leftover toilet paper rolls!
Free play imaginative scenarios
It might feel a little awkward at first, but let your child take the lead. If they’re feeling stuck, offer some imaginative scenarios for their horse toys. Perhaps a new pony has arrived at the stable, and the other horses are curious. Or, perhaps there’s a large trail riding race coming up, and take your horses into the backyard for some exploring! Having some basic horse knowledge can help serve as a jumping-off point (don’t forget to groom your horses before putting them away!) but you can get creative, too. The first equine astronaut in space? Sure, why not!
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